Landscape of college recruiting has changed with early commitments

by - Senior Writer -
Clemson recruiting coordinator Jeff Scott

The new trend in college football recruiting is to identify high school prospects early in their high school career, offer them earlier and have them commit earlier in the recruiting process.
As a result, schools are filling up their available scholarship slots long before the college football season even begins, and Gaffney wide receiver Quinshad Davis Quinshad Davis
Wide Receiver
6-3, 185
Gaffney, SC

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, one of the top players in the state of South Carolina for 2012, is an example of what can happen to good players as a result.

Davis was long thought to have both Clemson and South Carolina at the top of his list, but with both in-state schools getting a ton of early commitments and the number of open slots dwindling, Davis has to take a long and hard look at out of state schools. He visited Wake Forest last week and is planning a trip to N.C. State in the next few weeks.

Davis’ head coach at Gaffney High School, Dan Jones, said the landscape has changed dramatically from when he started coaching.

“I was telling somebody the other day that we used to go to the Shrine Bowl [usually held in December] and see all these college coaches,” Jones told TigerNet. “Of course, the college coaches can't come there now, but that was the senior season for those players, and the coaches were there recruiting them. Now, colleges are already into 2013, so evidently that game has changed a lot lately. I don’t know why it has gone that way, except that college coaches are talking to these players early.”

Jones said that high school athletes are hearing from college recruiters earlier and earlier in their high school careers, and sometimes that process hurts true athletes like Davis.

“Some of your best athletes play other sports,” Jones said. “Quinshad had a good junior season, but then he started playing basketball, and he had that going on. He couldn’t go on visits like he should have and like he wanted to, and he had to wait until this summer to go visiting, but then schools like Clemson and Carolina are already filled up. But he is going to make it somewhere, because he is a great student.”

Clemson already has 14 verbal commitments for the 2012 class, and if academic casualties Kevin Dodd and Isaiah Battle make it through prep school, that number is actually 16 out of the 18 or 19 slots the Tigers will use this year.

The Clemson coaching staff has multiple offers out to 2013 prospects, who are rising juniors, and to a small number of 2014 prospects who are just rising sophomores in high school.

Clemson recruiting coordinator Jeff Scott told the media at Dabo Swinney’s media golf outing last week that the coaching staff likes being ahead of the calendar.

“Once you get ahead, you definitely want to stay there,” Scott said. “We were far enough ahead last December and January that we were able to get a head start on the 2012 class. This is a calendar that we’re comfortable operating on. But the calendar has definitely changed, and has really moved up, just in the past two or three years. The kids are taking more trips earlier, as freshmen and sophomores.”

High school prospects used to make their first visits to a college campus during their senior season, but Scott says that has all changed.

“As a junior or rising senior, when they come to your camp in the summer sometimes it’s the fifth or sixth time they’ve been on your campus, and really there’s not much more to see,” he said. “And by then, a lot of them have done the homework that they’re going to do on your program and they have the information they need to make a decision. They want to use their senior season just to enjoy their last year in high school, and not have to worry about all the phone calls and things you have to deal with once we get to the contact period in the fall.”

Jones said he would be in favor for an early signing period – letting prospects sign in September instead of waiting until February – and thinks that would help athletes like Davis find the open slots they truly want, but Scott said an early signing period would put coaches and players alike into difficult situations.

“If you had an early signing period, then there would be talk about earlier official visits and all that,” Scott said. “I’m not sure that would be the right way to go. I think it would make it difficult, if you had an early signing period and then had a couple of committed players who didn’t choose to sign, it would put you in a difficult situation with them – if they’re still committed but have chosen not to sign.

“I know there’s been discussion, and I’m not saying it won’t happen, but right now I like it just exactly how it is. Of course, I know it probably won’t stay the way it is for long – it never does in recruiting. Things are always changing, especially with the timing of guys committing and making decisions earlier and earlier.”

2012   F O O T B A L L  C O M M I T S (14)
NamePOSHt/WtHometownESPN Rank
Recruit PhotoJavarius LeamonOL6-6/295Woodruff, SC
Recruit PhotoTravis BlanksDB6-1/180Tallahassee, FL
Recruit PhotoPatrick DeStefanoOL6-4/275Roebuck, SC
Recruit PhotoGermone HopperATH6-0/175Charlotte, NC
Recruit PhotoJay GuillermoOL6-3/285Maryville, TN
Recruit PhotoShaquille LawsonDE6-4/240Central, SC
Recruit PhotoChad KellyQB6-3/205Buffalo, NY
Recruit PhotoZac BrooksATH6-2/180Jonesboro, AR
Recruit PhotoCordrea TankersleyDB6-2/195Aiken, SC
Recruit PhotoOliver JonesOL6-7/285Ninety Six, SC
Recruit PhotoT.J. BurrellLB6-1/205Goose Creek, SC
Recruit PhotoMartin AikenDE6-3/250Bamberg, SC
Recruit PhotoRonnie GeohaghanS6-0/185Fairfax, SC
Recruit PhotoBradley PinionP/PK6-6/220Concord, NC

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